Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One love pon Collie Smith Drive

My Uncle Mike pointed out I have been slacking on my blog. So I went back and read my last post and realized that my last note I apologized for a similar offense. Thanks Mike!

Catching you up would be impossible. (I said this last time too). Here goes nothing...

My parents came to visit and I was so grateful they were able to make the trip. It was really special to me to show them this new and exciting life of mine. At moments it was difficult to try and even paint the whole picture for them. Most moments here are so memorable because the setting is just right and the company could not be better; every piece fits. Many times the story ends with...maybe you just had to be there. And then as my family and I had a whole week together we made some of those moments for ourselves. From Kingston to Negril and the WHOLE in between we drove both coasts (and my mother held her breath the whole time). They also put up with my vegetarian diet, blackberry, late nights with friends (hence sleeping late) and fairly chaotic lifestyle extremely well. much <3 mom & dad.

I have been teaching fourth grade subjects (science, math, & language arts) at Trench Town Primary where my students are preparing for their first literacy exam. Trench Town primary in 2009 scored the lowest for grade four literacy island wide with 64% failing. Their attendance rate is also 64% on a good day. The days that I trek downtown and walk miles up the infamous Collie Smith Drive are my favorite ones.
Trench town is one of the most notorious shantytowns of Kingston. It was so named because it was built over a ditch that drained the sewage of old Kingston depicted on the left. A few times walking up this road and I feel right at home buying loose cigarettes on the corner, chatting with moms under the beating sun and leaving at the end of the days 36 kids in tow. Some like to walk me to the bus stop; they love "protecting" me in their community. Trench town was also home to Bob Marley and his mother after they left St. Ann for Kingston. Murals for Bob, Peter Tosh, Bunnie and the Wailers line Collie Smith and sometimes its hard to believe I'm here. Some moments feel full circle, this one especially so.

So my kids are anything but easy. They require attention, discipline, patience and hugs. They consume my thoughts in amazing ways and their feisty soulfulness fills my day forcing me to think deeply about the world we share. When we learned about flooding in science class our real life example was "liv'n pon deh gullyside".  Flooding, where many of my student live, occurs after heavy rains. The inadequate gully-ducts for draining the rainwater is more like a garbage dump and the zinc housing set ups always flood. For Jamaica Day I brought Jazz & Anita who the kids obviously adored. I plan to be with Trench town Primary at least through the school year. Enjoy the photos!
Singing on Jamaica Day!

Today they met "Auntie Anita"...she passed their test!

Yuh Nuh EASY!

They make you know their tough.

Monday, January 3, 2011

So is there anything we can't do....

I'll be honest, I completely forgot to blog for roughly a month or two... It has been incredibly hectic here but I hope other social media has been able to piecemeal-like inform you about my travels. If not, lets play catch up.

Schools out, finals are over and I despise the UWI library. But I have enjoyed my time on campus and have met really great people and have made great connections pertaining to my research. Oh yeah... research. That has become a bit more top secret as it has taken a very interesting spin since I last blogged. Updates once I am able, promise.

So when you move some where--you develop a social life. We happen to seriously enjoy ours and we are doing a great job at seeing the whole island. Since before thanksgiving we went to Negril again. River swimming, good vegetarian food (meat free for almost 3 months), and beach!

::be right back quick dominoes game::

As you can see we play a lot of dominoes. Supposedly its an old Chinese game, but its our new favorite past time here. You need four people and there is always four of us, its perfect. Oh and we taught Jamaicans how to play Spades!! Maybe spades will become a new trend.

Christmas was lovely, I spent it with Anita's family! I figured, why not make this excursion as multicultural as possible. Send the lonely Jew on Christmas in Jamaica with the Hindi family! It was a good plan, happy I stuck with it.

New years was super fun. S40 (deh studio 40- our apartment) reunited! With Jazzy back from Negril, Erica home from foreign and Anita's back from country we rung in the New Year with new friends in a new county that we really love calling home.

So lets make a short list maybe with photos so I can attempt to fill you in.
1) My Christmas looked like this...

2) We saw Kartel live, yes be jealous, yes it was awesome and then we danced in the rain. We also wore florescent high top sneakers.


3) I have route-taxied all over this island...Ochie-->Runaway-->Discovery-->Falmouth-->Mobay. I suggest taking public transportation everywhere in the world, its the best way to travel. Besides the fact that you meet the most interesting people ever, like Hugh (my favorite Robot Driver)


5) Yes fellow Jews... I did celebrate Hanukkah with fellow Jew Erica. I made latkes and 'E' lit the menorah every night.... well almost every night including the random 9th night we wanted because we missed the 7th and because we can do whatever we want really...
6) We spent the first day of the new year on a 15 mile hike up to Blue Mountain Peak to watch the sunrise. JAMAICANS: if you have not done it tomorrow. FOREIGNERS: a must do...if you can hack it! Note: Many photos...

6:30am it was all worth it once we got up to the top

Ras did not even break a sweat...

WE MADE IT! 3 Fulbrights ontop a mountain!

The Blue Mountain Range

The group- partially mid-air, partially angry at me for making them jump 7 times for a photo after 7 miles of hiking.

“It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; 
mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky." 
(1494) Christopher Columbus--Jamaica.

More updates and more ridiculous things to come! Bless up! Happy New Year and keep following!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gully is to Gaza as Peace Corps is to Fulbright....

So we had Thanksgiving at Scott & Kim's house tonight. They were so kind to invite all of us over for a potluck style meal. Everything was delicious. Call it an ex-pat holiday for sure. But we finally got to meet some Peace Corps volunteers! Scott & Kim did their own Pecce Corps tours in Gabon so they have hooked up with some of the members in Jamaica. Observations....

Peace Corps has strength in numbers! There is 80 of them here!

Fulbright...well, there is 5 of us. Plus Erica. She makes it all worth it! Sorry Erica for selling you out in a photo. It just had to happen.
Erica in Negril.
Peace Corps has NO ONE in Kingston! They live in country....I <3 Country!

Every Fulbrighter is in Kingston....

They have 50 white girls pon di mini bus!

We only have two! Sometimes three!

They all hang out!

We are just lucky. Most Fulbrighters never see eachother!

But truth be told we are all just a bunch of people who want to help in various ways. So I guess the whole Gully vs. Gaza seems a bit dramatic.

Disclaimer: For my non-Jamaican readers...Vybz Kartel represents Gaza (Fulbright) vs. Mavado who represents Gully (Peace Corps).This would imply a fued. But in reality. There is no fued. Big up Peace Corps, we heard great work tonight! By the way you can refer to a Vybz Kartel posting earlier, which I may or may not be slightly embarrassed about a few months later...

Mental Note...Text Vybz to schedule interview about visa discrimination...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pon di minibus

So my obsession with the public transportation system continues. I am fascinated by it. Yes, sometimes I get irritated when I am trying to get somewhere on time; but for the most part I love route taxis. Some really interesting interactions happen in route taxi's. Let me explain.

So last week I was leaving UWI when this guy recruited me to get in his robot. Usually for route minibuses there is a driver and a loader. Basically all the taxi's & minibuses congregate in these condensed areas and the loaders or individual car drivers hop out and try to grab as many people as they can fit as fast as they can. The quicker they run the routes with the most amount of people the more money they make. Logical, sure. The speeds they drive, the dodging in and out of traffic, the sliding their car in neutral to save gas, and flying through parking lots and side streets to avoid traffic, which by the way never works. Anyways...when the loaders are trying to recruit you it can get a little intense. They are yelling, Pa-Pine! Lig-A-ne! Af' Way Tre! Cross-Ro! Yeah all those are areas, I gave you the phonetics, you figure it out... I had too.

So yeah anyways I was leaving UWI and this loader shouts "Af Way Tre" so I look up to see where it's coming from and the guy already sensed me acknowledging his route so he darts over to me and leads me to his minibus. I say no, I don't want a minibus, particularly a minibus where I am the first person in. That means; a) you wait for a full bus, this could be 39 more people or b) every 3 seconds your driver is pulling over on the road to grab more people. So he said that he promised we would only wait five minutes and then leave. I reluctantly agreed. So more people get on the bus we get a good 16 in the next 5 minutes and we are off. No more than 3 seconds after leaving UWI the driver throws on the craziest gospel, reggae country music I have ever heard. Im like right behind the driver squished against the wall so any laughter to myself about the Jesus-loving music would of been easily spotted. They say its the Jesus-loving ones you should fear. But mind you the driver and the loader are like singing this music really loud and no one in this van seems to find it funny at all. I mean obviously there is something to be said for getting acclimated, but still I can't help but observe everything. By the time I'm the quarter of the way home, I am basically sitting with a row of wooden bird statues made by the nomadic rasta sitting next to me. So yeah about half way into the trip I said driver, good here! And jumped out as fast as I could with just enough time to watch the Jesus-loving minibus fly away an ungodly speed.

This stories a little different. So a few days after I got back to Jamaica I caught a ride to school pretty early and there was one more seat open. We pulled over to pick up this woman, the minute she got in the car her phone rang. It was her mother calling to tell her that her baby just died...she was 2 years old. Within 5 seconds we, the three other passengers, jumped out of the car and the driver was taking her wherever she needed to be in her first most awful moments. I am constantly learning how precarious life is.

Today I got to a route at the head of the crowd and was sure that I would get out pretty quickly. My driver was super friendly so I figured he would do his best to try and get us home. Well I should of known that drivers stick together, so when the HUGE bus broke down right in front of out taxi, my driver insisted on helping him and a few others push him off the road.  So finally we touch the road and we are barrelling down Hope Road when all the route taxi drivers are kicking out their passengers before the next intersection. So needless to say the driver we just waited for tells us he can't take the chance and that we have to get on out. Back to walking.

So yesterday Erica & I, with Anita as our consultant, decided we wants to start a route taxi as a social entrepreneurship exercise. I leave you with this video (click here for you computer illiterates) "Two White Girls Pon Di Minibus" to consider the possibilities of Erica & I running a robot.

Feel De Riddim, Feel De Rymm Get On Up Its Bobsled time!

Real Jamaican Bobsled Team
In preparation for the weekend ahead we decided to watch Cool Runnings. Why you may ask? Because we had planned a trip to Mystic Mountain in Ochie where they have the one and only Jamaican bobsled track. Yes, bobsledding occurs in the snow, but here in Jamaica we have a wooden track. It's absurdly fun and you can really yell the Cool Running's Sanka rhyme. We made jokes about kissing lucky eggs and asking eachother if we were dead? Watch the movie if you don't get it. Although, when I was 13 that movie felt a ton more Jamaican. After living here three months you see how much of a Disney film that is! I guess I should of known. But that being said, neighbor David pointed out that if they spoke in Patois, no one would understand it anyways. Hence subtitles in Shottaz. Which you should watch as well if you have not. And since we are on the topic, one last suggestion for now, The Harder They Come.

Can you spot the Lizard?
Your probably wondering where we got to take this excursion, and you want to go... Well it's double the price for tourists so yeah I won't be taking you here when you come visit. MYSTIC MOUNTAIN! Jody. Holly & Robynn picked up Anita, Eric and I. We trekked out to the North Coast.  As always car rides are my favorite and Jody drives like I do... I am really excited to rent a car when my parents come. I hope their excited! So when you get to Mystic Mountain you go on this Sky Coaster that goes through a Jamaican Rainforest. I am not sure what the qualifications are for being a rainforest, but whatever it was beautiful.  I was messing around with my camera so yeah, can you find my friend the lizard?

So the Sky Coaster is like 700 feet above sea level, Which is particularly high, compared to the rest of the island, (unless your up in the mountains).

Ya Dead Swanka?
Our Jamaican Bobsled Team
So we headed straight for the bobsled track to try out our skills. Turns out you do get to control your own sled! You have a break and everything. So they say you can open it up down the whole track, just not when you get to the red tape! So Anita and I latched our bobsleds together and I was the driver and, as they put it, Anita's job was to scream.  We made it go as fast as we could the whole way down, a whole 30 mph! But on this wooden track it felt pretty fast! It's no Kingda Ka but I would seriously consider doing it again, residents rate style.
Kind of safe looking right?
 Next up was zip-lining through the forest! We got all geared up in our straps, helmets, gloves, and hairnets? YEP, hairnets! Maybe so we don't let lice. The cloth gloves that were drying on the roof cause they were soaked were a bit more disgusting then the easily sanitized plastic helmets. Whatever we wore them. Here Anita, Jody & I will model these hairnets for you.

Thanks Anita for this one

We know we look absurd, big up!
Our zip-line tour guides were hilarious and they pretty much try to freak you out as much as possible. Like when they are holding your safety lines and to send you off and the guy on the other side who is going to catch you scream, NOO DON'T SEND HER YET! Yeah, thanks guys.
Anita does Ziplining, remember I'm holding the Camera
Anita's hard work also got her a Jamaican tattoo, having the camera and all I had to document this one. Sorry Anita! Jody doesn't seem to be too sympathetic!
Rope Burn Sucks.
 But we got Anita Scotchie's for lunch! Needless to say Jerk Chicken & Festival always makes us happy! We then made the long trip back home after picking up Erica. Oh if you did not notice she was not in any of the photos. She tagged along so she could lone wolf Ochie. She almost made it on to the Carnival Cruise Ship. Officially added to the Bucket List... sneak on the Royal Carribbean!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I got chapped lips in Connecticut. Thanks wind chill factor.

So I just returned home from a very short very sweet trip to Connecticut. CT is so very quaint compared to this place; yet Kingston is so small compared to the modest area of NYC that I covered this weekend. Traveling is one of my favorite things, I even like the like physical traveling part even though sometimes its awfully stressful and requires you to make impetuous decisions particularly when the weather is not on your side. Suggestion: The only decision you need to make is that you will not make a decision at all! Because don't worry they will decide for you. I flew home a day early on the house! Yep JetBlue rocks. I coached Jasmine through bitching out Delta for long enough to get the same deal, it worked!

So we know I flew for the GRE's lets get this over with. I did OK. Just OK. But I wont know for good until all the percentiles are released and the essays get scored. Yep so... there it is. Should I retake it...MAYBE. Am I going to do that? Absolutely NOT. I refused to waste any more of my time in Jamaica studying and turning down opportunities because I have to take a test that at its foundation is defunct. I seriously won't go into it. I just think its a poor measurable. Anyways... next up college apps and essays.

Christian picked me up from JFK after I got a bit snippy with the 5th person that denied me use of there cell phone to call him, since my Verizon plan is deactivated and my Digicel obviously would not work there. After a mini-interrogation from the 6th lady she reluctantly let me use her cell. Like it was impossible for anyone to believe I was a young lady without a cell phone! In Jamaica I would have had a ride home by the second person I asked. Whatever, I found Christian and we trekked home dancing to all the Jamaican music I showed him and seriously catching up on the past three months.

Eating is a ridiculously important part of my life. I take it fairly seriously. If I am going to need this energy for my body to convert around and do shit with I am going to enjoy it. With that being said, I made plans to hit my favorites. The Blue Dolphin Wednesday night (so worth it) that place is an anomaly seriously check it out. Best Italian food I have ever eaten. The Ivy Noodle in New Haven Thursday with Dad after dropping of license-less Brother Aaron. Yes it is a dirty Asian noodle joint, its delicious. Or just do Pho Vietnam, which I had to skip due to timing...awful sacrifice to have made. Which by the way if you click on there link above, which I just did for the first time ever, there site is ridiculous for the hole in the wall they are, so deceiving yet in a phenomenally good marketing way. The food is more delicious then the website decorum which is quite nice. Ok, I'm stopping. Oh wait, I had good pizza. Yep thin crust wood fired stove pizza. Mmmm.

I spent two great nights with my Aaron, my brother and best friend. I had quality time with the family, had breakfast with the "Alf"andres, coffee talk with the Kukks and hugging their adorable children for a really long time, HUGE SNUGGLE SESSION WITH REX, lots of hugging and laughing with the Stewart Family, being ridiculous with my best friend Brittney Purdy and going to see the Downpour reunion concert in NYC with Beej, Marge (my lover) and my monkeys!!

I also managed to accrue 100 lbs worth of stuff exactly upon returning to Jamaica. Yes the essentials, my leather jacket, 4 pairs of high heels, jars of capers and calamata greek olives, fried rice spice, a food processor, and a purse (so Anita can stop carrying my shit when we go out). Listen... I also brought back printer paper, an absurd amount of books, steeled toed boots for my Iris Frogger Fulbright and Brittney's summer wardrobe.

Open Can of Lychee Fruit that we somehow rationalized as hurricane food
I missed a lot of people and did not make 1/2 the stops I intended to but I figured that would happen. Next time! Apologies to those I missed!! I am happy to be back in Jamaican and after staying up straight through the night misbehaving in NYC with my monkeys, getting to the airport at 4am and finally getting through customs at 11; I ended up poolside all day with Anita & Erica. 47 degree days in CT right back to 95 and breezy in JA! I also arrived home to "Tomas", which was "No Mas" induced insanity at my apartment and discovered this.... Anita & Erica actually dug into the canned Lychee fruit that we purchased during our psychosis induced Hurricane Tomas grocery shop. You figure it out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Listen Tomas, I gotta get home!

Tomas's ultimate trajectory...ended up as "no mas".
Sometimes I like to run into Anita's room at crazy hours of the morning and deliver her news about our day ahead. Last week I did this twice.
First time
Anita: (wakes up hilariously quick) "WHAT? WE NEED TO GET SUPPLIES!"
One of the many reasons I love Anita, she is so damn practical. I immediately started panicking cause it was due to hit Thursday am. Yep, the day of my flight home so I can take the GRE's the following day. After much convincing from roommates, neighbors, and family abroad I was told to forget about it for the day and figure it out as the time gets closer. David made the argument that we would think clearer if we got with nature, so went to to Hellshire Beach to swim and eat their infamous fried fish.

 By the way all these photos are kudos to David. He took responsibility for the camera, super helpful in documenting and facilitating our adventures when adversity strikes!

We swam in the most unclear water we have seen thus far, yet it was still amazing
So we played in floaty tubes instead of worry about our flights
We potentially thought about riding this horse.... or not. He did not seem to thrilled with his profession
Yeah the view of the mountains is barely captured here. There magnificent.

The perks of having a personal photographer. He asked that the photo I took of him remain off, until we take a better one!
So we loved the beach, we made friends with tiny Jamaican kids and played in the water for long enough to watch the sunset while it was still warm enough to swim.

Second Time:
Me: "ANITA WAKE UP ITS 11 O'CLOCK (one of her interviews for grad school was at 11 that morning)
Anita" "WHAT!!!" (she shoots up and grabs her phone) "Ash... my phone says 8am."
Me:  "NOO WAY! Mine says 11! (yeah I slept on my phone and changed my time zone on accident)

We also saw Gerald Hanson's new art expose "Jamaica Home From Home"  which ironically depicted our Dancehall teacher Raddy Raddy Rich.

Raddy Raddy Rich

Even David's Dominoes love KFC
 We also continued to play dominoes and Anita has gotten significantly better!

We also decided to see the new Jamaican flick, "Better Mus Come". It was about a Jamaican youth in the 70's political turmoil that plagued inner city Kingston. The film depicted the conflict that ensued externally that enveloped the people and affected there day to day lives. But also Ricky's inner conflict with desiring more pacifist ways after his wife's shotta initiation inspired death but running up against his friends that believe violence is the answer.

I ended up resolving my flight crisis. More on that later....